I’ve been taking a fiction writing class for awhile now.
For story ideas, I started flipping through a photography book about the history of Corpus Christi, TX. Of the many photos that sparked my imagination, one stood out: A group of men standing near a whistlestop train, holding posters promoting the area’s “rich blackland soil.”
The word “blackland” was a spark for me.
“Blackland” is one of those terms I grew up around, it was familiar yet abstract to me. I knew it was about farming. It was about good soil. Then I remembered the eerie song “Blackland Farmer.”
“When the Lord made me he made a simple man
Not much money and not much land
He didn’t make me no baker or legal charmer
And the Lord made me a blackland farmer.
I’ve been breakin’ up the new ground early in the day
I’m gonna plant some cotton I’m gonna plant some hay
I love to smell the sweet breeze blowin’ through the corn
Lord, you sure done me right on my blackland farm.”
“A-ha!” I thought, remembering the mascot of a local high school – the “cotton pickers.” Cotton farming is something I’ve seen a lot of, but in my time, it’s always been done by big machines, not people. Cotton crops were what I gazed at as we drove up to San Antonio; it was not something I knew as a “way of life.”
But the world blackland stuck with me, and compelled me to read a large book on the early farmers’ wives of the Blackland Prairie, a huge swath of Texas land that holds very fertile soil. It was riveting. They had hard, brave lives. They had great stories.
And that led to me quickly write a short story about a Blackland family.
I’m not posting it here, since it’s in a raw form. But my overall point is, I’ve found a subject that fascinates me, yet isn’t so emotionally close to me I’d find it suffocating to write about. I worked on it over Thanksgiving, I worked on it more tonight. I just keep writing. I am in a tunnel, the opposite of writer’s block.
It took awhile, but my “fiction writer” has been unlocked, it is no longer buried under my journalism-minded thought processes. Here’s hoping it lasts.
(When the story gets edited, I will indeed share it.)
photo courtesy: Fernando Weberich/Stock Exchange photos